The Soundtrack For The Baby Boomer Generation

Step back to a time when singers were as bright as the stars in the heavens
and the music they sang was really swingin'. Stacks of wax to fit every occasion!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Teach Me Tiger

Artist: April Stevens
Song: Love Kitten (a-side) (b-side is You And Only You)
Label: Imperial 5761 (Black label silver printing)
Number: IM-2993
Songwriter: Nino Tempo
Time: 2:08
Released: 1961

Many people will recognize the name of April Stevens, especially if the name Nino Tempo is connected with it. Together, they had the smash 1963 hit Deep Purple. What many people don't realize is that this dynamic duo are brother and sister. They were born with the names of Nino and Carol Lo Tempio, and were from Niagara Falls, New York before they relocated to California. Their careers were seemingly always intertwined - working together, working apart, recording together, recording separately - and even though Nino wasn't on this track, he did write it, along with it's flipside You And Only You.
April's solo career goes back to 1951 when she was approached by the owner of Laurel Records, while still in school. Before long, she had changed her name to April Stevens and recorded a few songs for Tony Sepe's small independent label out of Hollywood, California. Early hits of hers from the 1950's included Don't Do It, Gimme A Little Kiss, Will Ya Huh? and Teach Me Tiger, all slightly suggestive sounding in nature, and a couple of them even being banned from the radio! Love Kitten is another song in the same vein. April's voice literally purrs in this song, with her sensuous, alluring vocals and singing in a throaty half-whisper. Who could doubt that she generated a lot of fan mail back in the day?
Both Love Kitten and it's b-side You And Only You have never been included on any of her albums and that is a mistake indeed. With her sexy, come-hither voice, one has only to wonder how much bigger of a star she could have been had her hair been blonde instead. Listen to April Stevens purring Love Kitten, and see if you don't agree!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Not The Robber Baron

Artist: Jaye P. Morgan
Song: Tell Me More (b-side) (a-side is My Blind Date)
Label: RCA Victor 47-7178 (Black label silver printing)
Number: J2PW-0958
Songwriter: Jerry Leiber-Mike Stoller
Time: 2:02
Released: March, 1958

Jaye P. Morgan, whose real name was Mary Margaret Morgan, had a long and varied career, starting in the 1940's. Her nickname was acquired in high school, where she was elected the class treasurer and people compared her to banker J. P. Morgan because she was so tight with money. The reference stuck and she took the name "Jaye P." when she started performing professionally. In 1954, she signed with RCA Records and during this popular 4-year period, there were several singles released. In fact, during the year of 1955, she had five hit singles! This particular record came toward the end of her association with RCA and has Neal Hefti directing the orchestra. It features Jaye P. Morgan on vocals and a great uptempo arrangement. The flipside My Blind Date has been anthologized recently, as has a lot of her works, but this particular song has never appeared on any album.
After her recording career started winding down in the mid-1960's, she did little entertainment-wise except a few nightclub appearances and television talk shows, later moving into acting in the 1970's. But, she is probably most remembered for a 1980 appearance she made on The Gong Show, of which she was a regular panelist, where she did something that got her fired from the show. She supposedly bared her breasts during a performance by Gene-Gene, The Dancing Machine. This infamous incident is detailed further elsewhere, so I won't go into specifics here.
She is currently retired and her latest release is entitled Jaye P. Morgan Lately!, re-released in 2005. (Originally it came out on the Palace Records label in 1983.) But, this is Jaye P. Morgan in the height of her popularity singing Tell Me More.

Monday, December 3, 2007

She Was Just Seventeen

Artist: Sue Raney
Song: Till There Was You (a-side) (b-side is Pal Joey Theme, by Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra)
Label: Capitol F3847 (White Label Promotional Record)
Number: 45-17765
Songwriter: Meredith Willson
Time: 2:41
Released: November 26th, 1957

Sue Raney's first album was recorded by Capitol when she was only 18 years old. When Your Lover Has Gone, produced by Nelson Riddle, was released in 1958. This single was not recorded for it, nor was it a part of that album. Instead, it came from the previous year when Sue had first signed with Capitol. Upon discovering her, they paired her with Nelson Riddle and immediately saw results. Till There Was You was recorded on October 29th, 1957, and was backed with the theme from the Frank Sinatra movie Pal Joey (whom Riddle also produced for Capitol) which was released on November 25th, 1957. The Pal Joey Theme featured only Riddle's orchestra with no vocalist.
The song Till There Was You was from the Broadway musical The Music Man, which would premiere the following month, on December 19th. I find it fascinating that the songwriter, Meredith Willson, would allow it to be used like this. There was an original cast album which was released on January 20th, 1958, and it went on to hold the #1 position on the Billboard charts for twelve weeks, so it's surprising he let this version pre-date it and possibly detract from it's sales. Whatever the reasoning was, Riddle's and Sue Raney's version is quite charming. Another unlikely artist to have covered this song, was the Beatles, in 1963! But, here is the ultra-smooth Nelson Riddle and Sue Raney version of Till There Was You from 1957.

I found out that Sue Raney is alive and well, living on the West Coast, and still recording. In fact, she just recorded a tribute album to Doris Day that was released earlier this year of 2007. I heard some of it and she can still sing, let me tell you - better than ever! You might want to look that CD up, it's entitled Heart's Desire, A Tribute To Doris Day. You can hear cuts from it on Sue Raney's very own My Space page here.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Swingingest Sexpot In Show Business

Artist: Abbe Lane
Songs: We're Not Children (a-side) and Femininity (b-side)
Label: RCA Victor 47-7169 (Black label with silver printing)
Number: J2PW-0722 and J2PW-0724
Songwriters: Jay Livingston - Ray Evans (Both songs)
Time: 2:25 and 2.14 (The printing on the label says 2:25 and 2:56)
Released: 1958 (?)

I wasn't going to post this single because I found out these two songs were on her album entitled The Lady In Red and it had been reissued recently on CD. But, when I located an original version of that album which somebody had digitized and uploaded to the internet, here, I found out something very surprising. The two songs on my single were different versions than were found on the album! That's right. They both had the same arrangements, of that I'm sure - the instrumentation was exactly note for note on both versions. And, yes, it's Abbe singing on both versions, but they seem to be different takes. On We're Not Children, the lyrics and length of the song is the same on both the single and the album, as is her phrasing and the way she interprets the song. It's just that I can tell it's not the same vocal take on each one, if you know what I mean. Femininity is a whole other story.
On the album, Femininity has an intro piece and lasts 2:56. Does the length sound familiar? It should, for that is what the song is reported to run as printed on the label of the single version. The problem with that is, though - the single version only lasts 2:14! And, to top it all off, the lyrics are totally different in some places, so I know it's a different vocal take!
What could have happened? After a lot of research, I still don't know the answer to that. One clue that led me farther away from the truth was the small printing underneath the titles of both tracks on the single: From the musical production "Oh Captain!" A-ha! After a little more research, I found out that Abbe did indeed premiere these songs in the Broadway musical Oh, Captain! and that there was an original cast album released. I figured that was the discrepancy - the single was from the Broadway show, put out before the album was recorded. But.... Abbe was on the RCA label and the cast album was released by Columbia, so she couldn't appear on it and instead had to have her vocal parts sung by Eileen Rodgers. So, that wasn't what happened. What did happen?
My theory as to what took place is this. As is the case with some songs in Broadway productions, often times the lyrics get "updated" when recorded outside of the production. It arises that references that are in the song when perfomed onstage are out of context without the full compliment of the Broadway show surrounding it on a "secular" album. There is nothing to confirm or deny my theory, that I can find, but here is what I think happened:
Abbe never got to sing the songs that she herself premiered on Broadway. I mean, now they were like her signature songs and somebody else had to sing them on the original cast album! That must have made her pretty angry at rigid Record Company rules and regulations. When her record company, RCA, got ready for her to release a new album, they made sure that these two songs would be included on it; because after all, she was practically famous with them already. So they recorded them, and because the lyrics had to be rearranged and one of the songs padded out to a more fuller length, they tacked on an intro to the beginning of Femininity and all was well. To appease her, I think they may have allowed her to record them again, singing the versions she had on Broadway, only never intending to do anything with these other versions. I also suspect that they intended to use the album versions of both songs on the single all along, as the tell-tale timing lengths printed on the label indicates. Sometime after the recording process, the master tape of these two songs must have gotten mixed up and sent to be used on the single instead of the album version masters, and it wasn't caught until it was too late. Well, that's my theory and I'm sticking to it! If anybody has any information about this, please contact me.

As to Abbe Lane herself, she had quite a career. Born in 1932, she began as a child actress on the radio and from there she progressed to singing and dancing on Broadway. In 1952, she married the Latin bandleader Xavier Cugat and his influence could be seen on her music, which favored Latin and rumba styles. The title of this post was taken from a 1963 magazine article about her after she had achieved her greatest success, which was as a nightclub singer. She appeared in Italian films and several television shows of that period, Toast Of The Town, The Flying Nun, The Brady Bunch, Hart To Hart, and Vega$. Fans of hers got to see her one final time in the 1983 film version of The Twilight Zone, where she played a stewardess. Today, she is still alive and well. Maybe I should try to locate her and ask about the mix-up on this record.

This having been my longest post so far, (but you get 2 songs for the price of 1!), I need to give you the link for these wonderful songs. Here is Abbe Lane singing the songs from her single We're Not Children/Femininity. And, she actually sings them better on the 45, so don't miss this one!

Lily Ann

Artist: Lily Ann Carol
Song: I Don't Know Any Better (a-side) (b-side is It's Been So Long)
Label: RCA Victor 47-4852 (Black label with silver printing)
Number: E2VW-6360
Songwriter: Irving Gordon
Time: 2:53
Released: 1953 (?)

There isn't much information out there in cyberland about Lily Ann Carol. About the only thing I could find was that she was a featured vocalist in Louis Prima's Orchestra in the mid- to late-1940's and that after that she did some solo work on Prima's own Robin Hood label and then the Bruce label. This single was not released on either of those labels, so she must have moved on to a different record company by this time.
From further research, I have found out that the number on this RCA disc was used right after another single featuring Hugo Winterhalter and his Orchestra, and his songs Hesitation/Tic-Tac-Toe were released in 1953. So, it's safe to assume that this 45 rpm of Lily Ann Carol's came out in 1953 also.
The only commercially-available recordings of hers appears to be on the same aforementioned Louis Prima records; actually she's featured on just a few cuts of one album that is currently for sale. Other than that, her works don't seem to be available anywhere. That's a shame, too, because she has a really powerful voice and persuasive inflection. But, don't take my word for it - see for yourself how moving her performance is by getting I Don't Know Any Better by Lily Ann Carol.

Oh, and if you like this song and want to hear more - please let me know. A short comment is all the impetus I need to post the b-side of this record, It's Been So Long, or any other sides I may have mentioned in the course of my blogging!

Perfect-Lee Peggy

Artist: Peggy Lee
Song: Oh! No! (Please Don't Go) (b-side) (a-side is Ooh That Kiss)
Label: Decca 9-29534 (Pink Label Promotional - Not For Sale)
Number: 45-L 8179
Songwriters: Lucky Thompson - Gee Wilson (Gene Wilson)
Time: 2:42
Released: June 6th, 1955

Today's post is a catchy little Peggy Lee number entitled Oh! No! (Please Don't Go). It was recorded on the same day, February 11th, 1955, as it's a-side Ooh That Kiss. While the a-side has seen further release on at least one collection, an import CD from 1998, this little nugget has never been included on an album.
Born on May 26th, 1920, Peggy Lee had a career that lasted from 1941, when she joined Benny Goodman's band, until her death in January 2002. In that period, she recorded more than 600 songs and wrote many more. She was truly an American legend in music.

Now, go and give a listen to the voice, about which Frank Sinatra had this to say: "Her wonderful talent should be studied by all vocalists; her regal presence is pure elegance and charm." Peggy Lee sings Oh! No! (Please Don't Go).